If the Redskins want to address their two biggest needs, they’ll use their first pick on a nose tackle or a running back in NFL draft, which starts April 26. But alternate plans are necessary in case the players the Redskins like are off the board when they make their first pick at No. 13 overall. Trading down could allow Washington to recoup some value and still address those needs — or possibly get a look at a cornerback or receiver who has fallen. Here are the top players to watch in the first round, according to position.
The Redskins are looking at Washington’s Vita Vea, left, but there’s a growing fear that Oakland will pick him at No. 10 overall. Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne represents a solid Plan B. Vea’s initial punch is what NFL scouts most love. One step off the snap and boom, he can bull rush past guards and centers. A two-gap defender with tremendous strength could shore up Washington’s long-needed run defense. But Vea is considered raw and needs to better recognize blocking schemes. Payne is a better run stopper than pass rusher, and he has history playing next to Redskins defensive end Jonathan Allen at Alabama.
The Redskins appear to love LSU’s Derrius Guice, left, reportedly hosting him at the team complex Monday. In the NFL, that doesn’t mean much. It could be a diversionary tactic to confuse other teams. Guice, a well-balanced runner with power to move the pile, makes a lot of sense for Washington, just not as high as the No. 13 pick. If the Redskins add a pick by trading down, Guice would be a nice fit late in the first round. A handful of quality running backs could be picked on the second or third day — San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny comes to mind — and Washington will likely draft one.
Washington hasn’t quit on Josh Doctson, who showed signs of growth with six touchdown catches last season after an Achilles injury sidelined the 2016 first-round pick for most of his rookie year. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, left, could tempt the Redskins to add another player capable of developing into a No. 1 receiver. Ridley can run every route but is best used as a deep threat. Paul Richardson signed in the offseason, but he’s a complementary player. Coach Jay Gruden might lobby for the 6-foot-3 target, who needs to add muscle but is capable of stealing Doctson’s job.
Another Crimson Tide player, Minkah Fitzpatrick, left, is a new-age hybrid who can play safety and cornerback. Fitzpatrick was a rare freshman starter at Alabama and played both positions there. Known as a high IQ player, Fitzpatrick is probably a safety in the NFL, where he can creep into the box as a linebacker in some packages and line up in the slot against fast receivers in others. He can be an intimidator like Redskins predecessors Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry, but he’s also a ballhawk the team badly needs. The Chuck Bednarik Award winner can play right away.
If the Redskins drop down, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, left, could be a candidate to replace Kendall Fuller as the nickel corner. A knee injury cost Alexander nearly half of his senior year, but he has shown the smarts needed to anticipate routes and the closing speed to mask his mistakes. Watch his eyes on tape — they never leave the quarterback. But, like former Washington corner Bashaud Breeland, Alexander can be overly aggressive and draws a lot of pass interference penalties. He is also a punt returner, which means he could allow Jamison Crowder to focus on offense full-time.